Oh, you luxury-ites driving your SUVs with the air conditioning blasting, sipping your designer water bottles. I get you. You want to reduce your carbon footprint, but you need to do it in style. Well, here’s an easy way to accomplish both tasks: try Tommy Bahama’s Farm to Table menu.
It’s a bold move for Tommy Bahama. They are sourcing an entire menu locally and offering it daily alongside their regular menu. “Everything on the plate is found here in the islands, from Molokai sweet potato, Hamakua Mushroom to the Surfing Goat Dairy Cheese,” said Rob Aspaas, General Manager. “The menu will change with availability. Sometimes we have to switch some items around to make it happen, but people are loving this menu. It is doing well.” The evening I visited the Kunia tomatoes had been switched to Hamakua, and the Kauai prawns were now coming from Big Island. Clearly, they were dedicated to making the menu work.
Tommy Bahama is located in the Shops at Wailea. Though you can dine in their beautiful dining room, newly decked out in classic Tommy Bahama plantation luxury chic aesthetic, I recommend hanging out on the deck, al fresco. There, you’re surrounded by palm tree heads at eye level, the summer breeze is welcoming and the live music is fantastic.
Starting with cocktails is a must. They have an exquisitely prepared menu of drinks, ranging from artisanal martinis and cocktails to a whole list of rum tropicals like you’ve never seen before. Their wine list will do the trick, too.
The farm to table menu is a localvore’s dream. The idea behind supporting the local food economy as a way towards greater food sustainability makes so much sense in our islands. Tommy Bahama started this concept menu in July, and if it’s successful they may keep it year-round. Chef Rey Baysa does all the difficult legwork for us by searching out the finest produce and proteins on the island. He serves them with gorgeous, glory-on-the-plate presentations. “I have been in the islands for over 40 years,” Baysa said. “The ingredients I have to work with here are the main inspiration. I let them speak for themselves. I really try to feature their flavors, and let that come through in the dishes.” Baysa added that he can’t take all the credit; his sous chef, Brandon Shim, is a local boy with great ideas, too.
I started with Baysa’s interpretation of Tomato Caprese. A sliced hamakua tomato stands upright, dissected by clouds of Surfing Goat Dairy goat cheese. It’s then topped by house pickled onion and a basil sprig, with a pretty pool of li hing mui dressing and balsamic reduction swirled together next to it on the plate. Eating it requires considerable deconstruction and dredging, but the fabulous flavors makes the effort well worth it.
The appetizer menu overflows with enticing summer produce. In the ahi tataki salad, the julienne daikon and wakame play on equal levels with the seared ahi. But it’s important to first saturate the whole business with spicy ponzu: my server helpfully demoed this for me. While the earth and sea vegetables soak in the sauce, grab bites with chopsticks that twist the fish and garnish together into one complementary, juicy crunch.
The pulled pork crostini is another filling appetizer. Here, a variety of sweet and savory flavors mingle on a small slab of sourdough toast. The tomato marmalade was surprisingly well balanced against the mango salsa and jalepeno, and was such a treat for me. I love tomato, but have never tried it as a jam before. If you lean in and sniff, the gruyere messes with you, but the enticing aroma of the pulled pork and the mango barbecue sauce draws you back in.
Ono is the raw fish in the poisson cru-style of creviche served on the Farm to Table menu. Dark purple housemaid Molokai sweet potato chips accompany the raw fish salad, adding color as well as providing an edible utensil for devouring the citrusy, coconuty, milky fish with cucumber and red bell pepper.
Baysa stayed true to the traditional French preparation with the tomato bisque, brewing it with the aromatics of the mirepoix and rendered bacon. Sometimes soup can be overlooked, but I couldn’t stop scooping this one, and devoured it quickly. The warm flavors will meld over your tongue in herbal genius.
The mahi mahi is a delicate entree, and shows its prowess in the silky and flakey sauteed fish, and in the addicting Hana ginger sauce. Upcountry bak choy and meaty Hamakua mushrooms are justified sides, made more magnificent with ginger sauce.
If red meat is more to your liking, Tommy Bahama is very proud of the fact that all of its beef comes from the Maui Cattle Company. This includes the burgers available at lunch as well as the short rib and petite filet. “We did all the tastings, and the Maui Cattle Company Beef over-performs other gourmet brands like Snake River in terms of flavor,” says Baysa.
I sampled the short rib that shows up at the table as a generous chunk of braised beef with a large bone extending skyward and bathed in incredible aromas of Chinese five spice and a port wine reduction. It’s a manly looking entree, so much so that the men on at both tables on either side of me asked, “What is that dish?” and then promptly ordered it. I didn’t even need a knife to separate the meat from its shank, as it melted away under barely any pressure. I tapped out before I tried their surf and turf: a Maui-raised filet and Big Island prawns, served with pohole fern and grilled maui onion cream.
Dessert was a triumphant finale. I thought I was full, but reserved just enough space to try the Maui Pineapple Creme Brulee. Served in a cross section of pineapple so the exterior is rind, the cool interior creme was amazingly full of pineapple and pineapple flavor. Baysa admits he had to tinker with that recipe to get the pineapple to gel, but he certainly had it all worked out. The caramelized sugar over top that concealed the luscious dairy underneath was flawless to the last bite. Two simple but perfect Kula strawberries dipped in dark chocolate were incredible as well. In fact, the strawberry was the star of the show: understated, barely dressed but unparalleled.
Aspaas added that ultimately Tommy Bahama would love to offer more regional menu items, and keep these on rotation with their core menu. The Palm Desert restaurant is offering a retro 1970s menu, and the Las Vegas restaurant is promoting a taco and margarita menu for summer. For now, their commitment and dedication to offering their Maui farm to table menu is a must try on your Wailea dining checklist. Their happy hour runs from 3pm to 5pm daily as well.
Shops at Wailea
3750 Wailea Alanui Drive
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.